Tuesday, November 20, 2012

2012 Holiday Tablet Roundup

I'm putting tablets into a separate category from e-readers this year because I think their primary function is somewhat different.  I think that most people tend to use tablets as more of a laptop replacement than as an e-reader.  They tend to be bigger and bulkier and heavier than is comfortable to hold for any length of time.  But at the same time, they're smaller and lighter and have longer battery life than most laptops so many people are finding them a relatively inexpensive option for traveling and/or a secondary computer.

iPad continues to be the standard against which all other devices are measured.  It's the multi-purpose device that will do almost everything a computer will do.  The Apple iTunes app store not only has the most apps available but also the most desirable apps.  When you hear about the latest wonder app that will make your life so much better, it's usually going to be available first on iOS (Apple's mobile operating system).  iPad runs e-reader apps from OverDrive, Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo, Google Reader.  Apple is making a play for the education market so there are multimedia interactive textbooks being created just for iPad.  There are numerous magazine apps that are beautifully designed and provide stunning photos in the retina display versions.  And it's a good gaming device.  I think it's hard to go wrong choosing an iPad as a gift.  It's got the edge on design, usability and apps.  The major downside is the price.  Current versions of the standard iPad start at $499 for the 16 GB wifi version.

Apple iPad Store
CNET Apple iPad Reviews
Apple iTunes App Store Preview

For those looking for non-Apple options, I prefer the Google Nexus line.  These are Google's flagship Android devices.  The picture is of the new Nexus 10 (10 inch tablet to compete with the standard iPad).  The Nexus 10 starts at $399 for a 16 GB wifi version.  Android tablets will run all the e-reader apps just like iPad.  But overall, there are fewer apps in the Android app stores that are designed specifically for tablets.  All that means is that some will be stretched a bit and not look quite as good.  But a lot depends on what are your must have apps. 

There are a lot of other Android tablets on the market as well, including the Asus Transformer (pictured above) that has a  keyboard that attaches and makes the tablet into more of a laptop.  Samsung and Acer make very nice tablets as well.  All will run all the e-reader apps.  Personally, I think that Android tablets are very competitive with Apple iPads.  But there is the issue of ecosystems to consider.  For anyone who is a Mac or iPhone user, they're probably pretty thoroughly integrated into the Apple ecosystem, meaning they have apps and/or iTunes content that they'd like to use on a tablet.  In which case, you probably want to stick with iPads.  If your gift recipient has an Android phone, it makes a lot of sense to go with an Android tablet either Google's or one of the others so s/he can use already purchased apps on it.

Microsoft recently came out with its entry into the tablet market the Windows RT Surface.  It's competitively priced at $499 for a 32 GB wifi.  $100 more for the black touch cover.  I haven't had a chance to try one out yet but just about all the reviewers love the hardware.  And reportedly it's a good implementation of Windows 8 for tablets.  It also comes with a tablet edition of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013.  You can order the keyboard separately, either a touch one as shown or one with raised keys.  Reportedly this is a necessary accessory if you're planning to actually use the Office apps.  The key drawback at this point appears to be lack of apps.  There is a Kindle app available, but so far nothing from Nook or OverDrive.  Another thing to consider is that Microsoft is due to release the more full featured version of their tablet early in 2013.  It will reportedly be significantly more expensive but also more like a desktop PC.  It might be worth the wait.

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